How do you start socialisation?
When you meet someone, do you rush up to them shouting ‘Play with me’? Do you insist that everyone you meet talks to you and gives you a hug? Or do you calmly walk up and look at the person to see if they are interested in talking? Let’s think about how dogs need to learn to say hello, otherwise known as socialisation.
If your small dog runs up to my tiny puppy and chases it, do you think ‘how sweet they’re playing’? I don’t think that. My puppy is frightened. He doesn’t know your dog, so why would he want to play with it? What will happen when Quin grows into a big dog (the size of a lab) and your dog runs up to him and chases him? He might turn round and say ‘go away’ and snap his teeth, which might catch your dog and draw blood. Who’s fault will this be? You taught him that dogs are scary and rude.
Call your dog. Get it under control. Walk calmly towards me and say hello to me. If I stop to chat, your dog and mine will say hello. They might even play! I teach my dogs to ignore everything they pass, as a starting point. But if I say hello to someone, they can say hello. Calmly. It’s not that I’m an anti-social bitch who never talks to anyone. It’s that I want a calm, relaxing walk, with no stress, shouting or running away. I don’t want barking or lunging, pulling on the lead, or lying down until other dogs go past and then leaping at them.
How to socialise your dog
Teach them to be calm and focus on you. Like this:
Other dogs just aren’t that interesting. There is no need to panic and run away. Nor is there any need to bark or lunge. This other dog is not a playmate, I am exciting and will play with you! One of the crucial parts of this process is how I behave with my dog. I MUST stay calm and positive. If I am nervous, particularly if my dog is on lead, my dog will know straight away and that will impact on how he reacts.
Ignore it, it’s boring
Here is some more training to ignore. With a bit of recall thrown in at the start:
You can see in this video that there is a lot of feeding of treats – in this case, cheese! Look how small he is though! Such a baby still. I am not going to feed him this much indefinitely, but at this point, I need to get commitment from him. NB: I feed my dogs treats as rewards for the whole of their life!
The next step
When you are confident that your dog is calm and feeling happy, you can try a bit of greeting:
You can see in this clip that he is not that confident. He thinks about running away, but is reassured by me standing calmly. Quin then comes through my legs, so nice and close to me. He enjoys saying hello. So much in fact he jumps up! He nearly gets rewarded for that, but fortunately he remembers he’s not supposed to do that so is rewarded for sitting down.
Look at how he is with the other dog. He doesn’t really want to engage with it. The other dog would like to sniff him, but it is on lead, so can’t get there without pulling. Because he’s pulling, he can’t reach Quin and Quin isn’t interested in talking to him (perhaps because he is pulling?) So then we calmly walk away.
What is socialisation? Why do we need it?
What is the ultimate goal here? I am aiming to teach my dogs to calmly pass other dogs on their walks. But I also want to be able to have them walk alongside other dogs, if I meet up with friends.
If you only have one dog, these issues are bigger and more difficult to overcome. If you have a breed of dog (or a mix of breeds) that are not particularly confident, such as a poodle, or a toy dog, you will find these issues more challenging to train, which means socialisation is even more important.
Border Collies want to learn and to please. They are more intelligent than other breeds and will pick up training more quickly. But that doesn’t mean you can’t train other dogs – of course you can. You just might need more time, more effort and maybe some professional help from a good dog trainer.
Other training progress
I’ve started teaching Quin to ‘wait’. This takes a long time, but is an essential command, one that I use every day.
I will be adding time, distance and distraction over the next few months.
Finally, I am very pleased with his on-lead walking. I don’t walk him on lead very much, but is vital that he is able to do so.
Weekly Focus Challenge
How are you going to react when you see other dogs whilst you are out? Make yourself stay calm. Try to get your puppy’s attention and give them lots of treats whilst people go past, then play! Be interesting, rewarding and exciting. Think about what you are enjoying with your puppy’s walks? What still needs working on?
Buy the Workbook
The Workbook – A Year With Your Puppy is available to buy. It was written and designed to be a hands-on, interactive book for you. It will help you survive the first year with your puppy, but also act as a memento of that time and the journey you have been on. You can write notes and stick in pictures of your puppy throughout the year. Lovely!
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NB: I am not a dog trainer, or a dog behaviourist, just a dog breeder and owner. I can only offer my opinion, based on my experience.